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Changing the Commodity Perception!! Mohawk Connects Article

March 26, 2014

Changing the Commodity Perception


Think about the last few prospects you have spoken with. How did the conversation go? Did the discussion end with the prospect asking for a price or, even worse, you willingly bringing pricing into the conversation? This tactic will most likely create the perception that your product or service is competing in a commodity marketplace. And when viewed as a commodity, the prospect will almost always choose based on price.

The challenge lies in providing prospects with the insight to consider value vs. price when exploring a new supplier relationship. How do you create this sales opportunity? Let’s take a look at an example.

Even the most basic of commodities can be differentiated

Think about water. Available for free from the spigot, yet Americans chose to consume 9.67 billion gallons of bottled water in 2012 (up 6.2% from the year before). Bottled water was consumed more than milk, coffee and beer. And with an average price of $1.80 per liter, it is more than twice the cost of gasoline.

So how did one of the world’s most basic commodities become a premium product?

By changing the commodity perception. This was done by creating value and using it as a selling point, as seen through the use of sophisticated packaging, availability of various sizes, enhanced quality through filtration, and differentiation through flavoring.  

How can you make this concept work for you?

If water can be differentiated through value and transformed into a premium product, then there are opportunities for you to do the same in print sales.

What makes your offerings unique and different from your competition?

Service and quality may come to mind, but using these to differentiate yourself may actually make it harder to achieve your sales targets. Why? Because prospects hear this messaging so often that these services are no longer the exception, they are the rule.  Service and quality are expected; so leading with these will make it even more challenging for you to position your product as a premium offering.

Here are 3 things you must do to position and sell your product as a premium offering in a commodity market. 

1.     Identify any unique points of differentiation

Provide your sales team with a clearly defined unique selling proposition, or USP. Without this, prospects will have no way to determine how your offering is any different than the competition. And when all things are equal, the customer will always choose based on price.

Many salespeople have trouble identifying a USP, so they fall back on service and quality as their points of differentiation.

Examples of more proven USPs include unique aspects of your manufacturing process, corporate philosophy, new product features, educational resources and other ways to encourage customer collaboration and new business opportunities.

2.     Know your prospect

When speaking with new prospects, it is important to understand their business. Do as much research as possible to find out who they are doing business with today, what your competition is providing, and what your prospect likes about their current provider.

Doing the early research can help you uncover potential opportunities, enabling you to create a tailored approach that shows you can deliver new insights and solutions. 

3.     Focus on their pain points

Prospects’ are often on a journey for two things: the reduction of pain and the pursuit for pleasure. Understanding what keeps them up at night will allow you to boldly share your knowledge and expertise, and position yourself as a trusted expert – someone they will want to collaborate with to solve other business challenges. Being relevant and providing solutions that grow their business will change your conversation from one that focuses on price to one that appreciates value.

  • If you lead with price without understanding the needs and priorities of your prospects, there will be nothing else to discuss but price. This means no opportunities for upselling or cross selling.
  • Look closely at your offerings and create a list of USPs that allows your sales team to differentiate themselves. Your marketing team can help.
  • Talk to customers and prospects to better understand how they view your products, as well as the competition.
  • Encourage your sales team to spend more time focusing on the customer and their business priorities, and less time talking about themselves.
  • By identifying what makes your offering different and understanding the needs of your prospect, you can bring a value-added solution to the table.

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